Mediocre image quality and limited adjustability are often the best you can hope for in a cheap 17-inch LCD. Not so with the AOC LM729, which delivers a good picture, plenty of flexibility, and a set of embedded speakers for less than $450. If you can live with its somewhat flimsy design and lackluster sound quality, you've found yourself a bargain. If not, take a look at the more sturdily built Dell 1703FP or NEC AccuSync LCD9V.
The LM729's high-style aspirations are hampered by its cheap plastic construction; on our test model, a plastic piece around the neck came loose, and we couldn't reattach it. The brushed-silver and black bezel runs about an inch wide; its slightly curved corners are a welcome departure from the sharp angles of other LCDs. Embedded, 2-watt speakers add another inch and a half to the bottom edge of the display. As with most built-in monitor speakers, the LM729's are inferior, offering weak, tinny sound.
The LM729 has oodles of adjustability options. The neck telescopes--albeit stiffly--about four inches. The panel swivels 35 degrees to the left and right and tilts about 20 degrees backward and five degrees forward. It pivots between Portrait and Landscape modes (AOC includes a CD with pivot software). The LM729 is also compatible with VESA wall mounts.
The display offers both Mac and PC support, but it's analog-only (AOC includes a cable). There is an audio line-in jack, and AOC provides a cable to connect the display to your sound card. Because there's no cable-feed system, however, the clutter of cords sits in plain view.
A power button and four clearly-labeled image-adjustment buttons are clustered along the right side of the LM729's bezel. The onscreen menus are reasonably easy to navigate. In a nod to nontechies, color temperatures are given as Warm and Cool instead of the usual perplexing range of degrees Kelvin.
The LM729's image quality is good, particularly for such a low-priced display. In CNET Labs' tests, text looked sharp, and the subtle shades of the grayscale were even and accurate. Colors were fairly bright and saturated. The display's viewing angles (140 degrees horizontal and vertical) make the panel easy to see from almost any position.
AOC backs the LM729 with a three-year warranty on parts, labor, and backlight. The company will replace a defective monitor at no additional charge for up to one year after purchase. Toll-free phone tech support is available Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. AOC's Web site offers drivers, manuals, e-mail tech support, and FAQs. The monitor comes with drivers and a user guide on CD.
CNET Labs DisplayMate tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Brightness in nits